A group of young women and children demonstrated on Parliament Square Thursday to protest on behalf of Charlie Gard, whose parents were stopped from taking him to the U.S. for treatment by doctors who want to withdraw his life support.
‘Charlie’s Army’ stood outside the Palace of Westminster, home to the British Houses of Parliament, on Thursday chanting “Save Charlie Gard!” and “If he’s still fighting, then we’re still fighting!”
Charlie has a very rare mitochondrial disease called infantile onset encephalomyopathic mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome, or MDDS, with only a handful of sufferers worldwide. He has been receiving treatment from National Health Service (NHS) doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London.
Charlie’s parents, Chris Gard and Connie Yates, want to bring Charlie to the U.S., where a specialist is willing to offer him an experimental treatment called nucleoside bypass therapy. They have raised £1.3 million to pay for Charlie’s treatment and transportation themselves through an online appeal.
Doctors, however, are determined to block the trip and ensure that Charlie’s life support should be withdrawn. They have kept him in the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children for months whilst fighting Charlie’s parents in the High Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court, and even the European Court of Human Rights for permission to withdraw his life support without their consent.
The parents of the first child to receive the U.S. treatment, Arturito Estopinan, have expressed shock at the attitude of the British doctors.
“We feel very fortunate to be American and not British – because if we lived in the UK Arturito would surely be dead by now,” they said.
“We are beyond shocked that doctors in the UK are saying Charlie should ‘die with dignity’.
“How insensitive when there is a treatment which could save Charlie’s life and eminent doctors in the US who are willing to help him.”
Charlie’s case has resonated around the world, with U.S. President Donald Trump announcing that his country would be “delighted” to help the boy on Twitter, and Pope Francis offering to care for the baby at the Bambino Gesù children’s hospital at the Vatican.
No response to President Trump’s offer has been forthcoming, however, and offers to move Charlie to the Vatican have been blocked for unspecified “legal reasons”.
Charlie’s parents say they have been told they cannot bring their baby home or move him to a hospice to pass away. Doctors are expected to remove his life support in the coming hours or days.